Children waiting for heart transplant given fresh hope in donor change

Young patients often face an agonising wait for a suitable heart of a similar size to their own and a compatible blood type. But removing their blood and washing out their circulation with a type that matches the donor’s prevents rejection. In the past this technique could only be used on children who weighed up to 15kg and were aged around four, because it uses three times more blood than is being replaced.

But the new technique removes mismatched antibodies from the patient’s blood, which halves the amount of blood needed and means it can be used for eight-year-olds.

The pioneering work has been led by Dr Richard Issitt, a senior paediatric perfusionist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, with funding from the British Heart Foundation. The team, also involving the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science, have performed 10 transplants with the new technique.

Patients include Lucy from Basingstoke, who had the procedure when she was eight. Before the op she was unable to walk from the car park to school. Now she is trampolining, sailing and doing everything her sister does.

Her mum Jenny said: “The other day she said, ‘I don’t feel left out any more.’”

Around 50 children are waiting for a heart transplant in the UK, the British Heart Foundation said. The charity’s medical director, Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to see Lucy bounce along. We hope this research will give many more children the same chance.”


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